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Politics

Casino Resorts, Immigration, Insurance Reform Top Haridopolos Agenda

September 19, 2011 - 6:00pm

Senate President Mike Haridopolos is ready to go all in on gambling in Florida, as well as reviving immigration reform efforts in the state.

The Merritt Island Republican outlined his priorities for the coming session on Tuesday, also highlighting energy research, economic development and reforming personal injury protection auto insurance.

Haridopolos, who is entering his final session as president, intends to reprise the Senates immigration reform effort from last spring that was highly criticized from the left and immigration advocates. He also intends to revive efforts to expand gambling in the state, mostly in South Florida.

Both issues, he acknowledged, have had a history of opposition in the House.

I dont want to see Florida become another Las Vegas, he said. But added, I also want to go to the place that has the most upscale gaming in the country, where people dont go just to game, but (for) the luxury, restaurants or the amenities of the hotel.

He estimated that casino resort-style gambling facilities could pump $1 billion or more into the states economy, which offers jai alai, dog racing and poker rooms.

Haridopolos did criticize adult gambling arcades, also called Internet cafes.

Were deriving almost no revenue from these whatsoever, he said. And, as the son of a former FBI agent, what are the odds of winning (at the arcades)? At least when you go to the pari-mutuels facilities theyre regulated.

As for immigration, Haridopolos expects the Senate to support the same legislation his chamber members approved last spring, only to have the House fail to take up the bill.

The Senate measure required law enforcement officers to make a reasonable effort to determine an individual's immigration status upon being arrested or detained. Tougher measures, including one to required work force boards to use E-Verify to check the immigration status of potential workers, were removed from the final bill.

We passed an immigration bill last year, a lot of people forget that. I know the House did whatever the House did, but at the end of the day, we passed an immigration bill, Haridopolos said.

With an expedited plan in place to return bills that were approved by the Senate last session to the floor for a vote, Haridopolos expects immigration efforts will again get support from the majority of senators.

Twenty-four (senators) voted for it last year. I dont think there has been any slippage this year, Haridopolos said. This is in the Houses court. If theyre serious about immigration reform, which I believe they are, Im sure theyll pass a bill that is similar or maybe theyll pass a tougher bill.

As for insurance reform, Haridopolos said he has appointed Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who oversaw Medicaid reform efforts last spring, to be the point man on addressing the increase in fraud in personal injury protection coverage.

Contact Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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